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Album Review: Level 3:16 Self-titled

Published on January 4, 2011

Level 3:16 Self-titled
Released: 2010
Reviewed By: DJ Gravity X
Rating: 7.2 (of 10)
[xrr rating=7.2/10]

Well it looks like CMR is continuing the revamp of their label by introducing another new group, Level 3:16. So how is the freshman, self-titled album and what is too be expected? If one was to gaze upon the cover art one might think that this was going to be a R&P group of some kind – complete with unnecessary and unappealing mean-muggin’ (I’m not a fan of the artwork apart from the remarkable color dynamics). However, what you will find is that this is far more hip hop than R&P, with far more studio tracks than live band. It’s actually a good strong blend of vocals and rapping, praise and story telling, serious and fun.

While the focus of most music is the lead artist and the basic beat, it’s the subtleties in many of the tracks that appeal to me the most and keep me drawn to those songs, especially in the rare occasions where the leads weren’t strong and the beat wasn’t driving. Things like a light piano, a smooth harmony, a jazzy horn, an ethnic erhu (Chinese fiddle) or duxianqin (single-stringed zither), a melodic scream with ethnic vocal variations, a hand clap, a strong build up, a narrative, etc., in the right place at the right time and at the right level really helped.

What impressed me the most with Level 3:16 was the quality of the rapping. Not only did I not expect there to be rapping by looking at the cover art, but I certainly would never have expected it to be as great as it was. “See It How I See It” is the best example of the immense quality of the emcees’ delivery and writing. Color this harsh critic impressed.

However, there is some lacking with the female singers (vocalists). At times they are solid and impressive, especially when accentuating parts of a track. Then there are times, especially when it was all on them like with “Amazing,” where it was very much lacking. That’s when it really showed the limitations and weakness of the vocalists in range, tone and ear. It’s a shame too because I was really looking forward to strong vocals.

But in the end this is quite a strong album. There are tracks that will make you want to dance, or at least move in your seats, like “See It How I See It” with it’s southern swag, “Know Him” with a steppers groove, “Most High” which is a mix of fast dance club beats and a chill melodic groove, and “Level” with an East Coast bouncers feel. They are coupled by serious tracks like “Total Submission” – a personal favorite of mine – which recounts the oppression of Christians in China and the hardships in the underground churches there, and “Crazy” with its serious yet comical take on human nature and saving grace. But don’t neglect the power of praise and worship in any framework. Tracks like “Casting Shadow” with its more traditional praise & worship rocked out, “Know Him” with a hip hop worship feel, and the smooth groove hip hop/R&P vibe of “I Remember” help to fill out a very dynamic album worthy of its asking price.

So in my closing assessment, if you are looking for something a little different than the norm, something that may have to grow on you a little but is solid throughout, something new and yet familiar, something not just hip hop and not just R&P, something that is worth spending money on… well, Level 3:16 might just be it.

Comprehensive Ratings:

  • Music: 6.5 of 10
  • Flow / Delivery: 7 of 10
  • Lyricism: 7 of 10
  • Content: 9 of 10
  • Creativity / Originality / Relevancy: 8 of 10
  • Credibility / Confidence: 7 of 10
  • Personality / Character: 10 of 10
  • Presentation Quality: 5 of 10
  • Overall Production Quality: 6 of 10
  • Potential Impact: 6.5 of 10

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